Working With A Co-Author

James Patterson

Lesson time 12:43 min

When does James decide to use a co-author and is it a true collaboration? In this lesson, we meet two of his most trusted co-authors who share their process for making a collaboration truly successful.

James Patterson
Teaches Writing
James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.
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Some people are not comfortable with this idea of co-authors or collaborating, and I think it's a much bigger deal than it is. So here's what I have to say to those people. Lennon and McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel, Stephen King and Peter Strauss, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, Gilbert and Sullivan, Woodward and Bernstein, Joel and Ethan Coen, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. What's great about working with co-writers is that you get two talents. Collaboration is a good thing. I know we have this thing about the American, we just go out and do everything by ourselves. And that's OK, but collaboration is really good. Combining strengths is really good. [CELLO SOLO] What I look for in a co-writer are people that can write convincing scenes, because the outline is going to lay out the scenes. Now we may add scenes. They may add scenes on their own, which is just fine. But they have to be able to write convincing scenes. We know what it's supposed to do. We knew what that scene in Honeymoon was supposed to do. We knew that it had to make us feel great about both of those main characters. So I'm looking for somebody, for people that can do that. Secondly, it has to be people that know that this is a James Patterson novel. It's going to be pace-y. It's going to be maybe faster than they would write their own work. It's going to really move along. And if they're comfortable doing that and like doing it and enjoy doing it. All the co-writers I think enjoy what they're doing, which is important. I think they look forward to getting up and writing this stuff. And it's important that I make them feel invested enough in each book. [CELLO SOLO] I love working with Jim. The process is terrific. I don't know how it works for other people or if we do it differently, but for me is fantastic. He gives me an outline and I read the outline and I get the story. And then I'm asked to contribute to the outline, because, as he says, you've got to write this stuff. So I really try to imagine how it's going to go during the length of the book. And I send him back some notes and then he agrees or disagrees and then we have a working plan for the entire novel. And the way that works for me is they will get the outline. I then try to-- I want them involved in terms of contributing to the outline for a couple reasons. One is that they might have some good ideas. And secondly, it invests them in the process. Even if they only add a small amount, it's incredible how they feel invested and they'll go like, that fixed everything. And maybe it did, maybe didn't, but the important thing is in their heads they're invested. [CELLO SOLO] But one of the things that's interesting about co-writers or even people writing a series, once the voice of the characters are there, you'll find so...

Set out to write a best-selling book

James Patterson, the author of 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, reveals his tricks of the trade. In his first online writing class, he guides you from the start to the finish of your book.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Love the content and style. Perfect advice for me trying my first novel.

I love being involved with this. Fantastic idea for getting start or kicking a block out of the way to get going again.

I'm so excited! Ready to learn from a Master. I've always wanted to write but never had the courage to step out. Let the new chapter begin!

Love this class! As a writer, this has to be one of the best things I have ever spent money on to help improve my work.


Scott L.

He drove home the point about working with co-authors and the positive impact of collaboration in the creative process. Best part? Combining strength. He had a nice list of the best collaborative writers ever: Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld, Lennon & McCartney, Simon & Garfunkel, Stephen King & Peter Straub to name a few.

Dan U.

Yes..research. Also, constantly ask...is this realistic? Make sure there is a high probability this will play out. How many beauticians suddenly quit their profession and become rocket scientists? ‘ Hey hun’...Gion expounded in a devilish lispy retort to Al, an engineer and married man with three teenage boys having grown up in a tough neighborhood in the Bronks, I think those tank engines need a serious tune up. Let’s get going on that, babe!”

Teresa V.

If I was being a co author I would suggest starting the story at this point....imo :) A faint beeping sound awoke her from her sleep. She was flooded by a sharp, sterile light, coming from the ceiling. She could see both of her arms all bandaged up. A woman approached her, with a tablet in her hand. “Oh, good you’re awake. I will alert Dr. Grey immediately” She disappeared into the next room. Dr. Grey came into the room and sat down beside her. “ I must say that you did a smart thing covering your mouth, because it saved you” Emmy wanted to speak, but her throat was very sore. She thought to herself that maybe it wasn’t such a waste of time watching tv shows after all.

M.K L.

Her body starving for air as she laid nestled between her white bedsheets. Almost constricting her as she awoke with a painful shriek. Her eyes wide open, pupils expanding. Emmy tried to breathe but her lungs filled with hot, smokey air. Her once beloved floral wallpaper was now looking more like something resembling burnt parchment. All shriveled and curled up. The black smoke was filling the room rapidly and the flames was eating away at the walls surrounding her. At that moment Emmy remembered that she had a bottle of water at her bedside table. She wrung the pillowcase off the pillow and grabbed the bottle. The water felt hot to the touch as she poured it over the pillowcase and wrapped it around her mouth. It was something she had seen someone do in an episode of station 19. To filtrate the hot air and cool it down, preventing internal burns. It was not going to save her today, though. The flames was now completely engulfing the entrance to the room and the walls. The only place left, was the wall behind her and the painted-shut window she hated since she moved in, because she could never get any fresh air in her bedroom. she ripped the sheet off the mattress and placed it vertically in front of her. It was the only thing preventing her from burning to death by this point. The pillowcase in front of her mouth was black from all the smoke and it was starting to burn her internally. Her skin was blistering from the heat and she was about to pass out from oxygen deprivation. The second her eyes fell shut, the window in front of her shattered. She could see a ray of light bursting through the black smoke. A man climbed in and picked her up. Then it was all black. A faint beeping sound awoke her from her sleep. She was flooded by a sharp, sterile light, coming from the ceiling. She could see both of her arms all bandaged up. A woman approached her, with a tablet in her hand. “Oh, good you’re awake. I will alert Dr. Grey immediately” She disappeared into the next room. Dr. Grey came into the room and sat down beside her. “ I must say that you did a smart thing covering your mouth, because it saved you” Emmy wanted to speak, but her throat was very sore. She thought to herself that maybe it wasn’t such a waste of time watching tv shows after all.

Shayne O.

Had a bit of fun with this one and stretched it out to 1966 words. I have included an excerpt from a paragraph about a third of the way through. With the cessation of the unearthly disturbance Emmy fell into a fitful sleep, with nightmares visited by shadowy faceless figures and malevolent demonic black winged beasts, as she tossed and turned on the narrow bunk. What misguidedly seemed only a short time later Emmy was again roused from her spirit crushing weariness, leaving the unsolicited devilish dream to hover on the peripheral of her conscience. Struggling to extinguish the soul wrenching plea of desperation it now induced, Emmy quickly grasped that this was not what rendered her awake.


Emmy jolted up in bed, suddenly surrounded by an inferno of thoughts and fire. It’s only a dream. She heard her breathing, loud and deep, clearly over the torrential roar. It’s only a dream. Then everything sped up. The dresser on the far wall collapsed face-forward onto the floor along with the mirror atop it. The looking glass shattered into a million pieces, the shards skittering across the floor like so many sparks. She was suddenly gasping for air, roiling smoke all around. Gagging, coughing, she rolled from beneath her smoking covers and onto the floor. Her thoughts became even more blurred. Still the refrain echoed in her ears, even as the roof collapsed: It’s a dream, only a dream…

Margot B.

When I published my second book Psychology in the Light of the East (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), I sought help and expert opinions on some of the aspects of the book. I struggled with impostor syndrome and then I remembered that almost every book I've ever read has an acknowledgments section at the beginning where we, as authors, give our thanks for all of the people who contribute toward our work in various ways and put up with us while we are glued to our desks for weeks, months and sometimes years. It is helpful to hear James' experiences and get his expert advice for our collaborations.

Miles T.

It seems like he writes the outline and someone else writes the book for him. I think co-authoring a book is a tough job unless it is a story that you are willing to let someone else make some changes.

Patricia F.

I have to upload my mine. Would anyone like to exchange critiques? Getting the work out there is one thing. Absorbing and using critiques is the pro level. I would love to offer critique of your work in exchange for your critique of mine. Any takers? (*crosses fingers and prays*)

Liam T.

In the dream, Emmy’s long-dead grandmother sat behind her at an old vanity smiling and curling her long auburn locks into steaming corkscrews. She’d had this dream before, usually when she was, as her grandmother would say, “pissing in the wind.” Emmy’d made more than a few bad choices lately which was why she’d ended up at her cottage on Cheasapeake Bay in Mid-October. Normally, Emmy came down in the summer. She’d managed to buy the small get-away with the leftover inheritance from her parent’s accident. The location had been ideal, but the cottage had been little more than a shabby camp bunk at the edge of the water—a forgotten eyesore with surprisingly sturdy bones. Emmy had saved every penny and read every book to get it back up to code and livable. After 15 years the cottage had become more than a passion project. It had become a refuge. In the dream, Emmy’s grandmother was saying something, but Emmy couldn’t hear. She could only see her lips moving in the vanity mirror. Tendrils of smoke began to rise from the back of Emmy’s head. The acrid smell filled her nose as she started to cough. Emmy tried to get her grandmother’s attention, but she was still smiling and chatting away even after she caught on fire herself. Emmy watched, horrified, unable to move, as the flesh from her grandmother’s face began to blister and melt, revealing her grinning skull, still carrying on a silent conversation. Emmy coughed again. Deep and heavy, it wracked her entire body, waking her from the nightmare. She had a moment of relief that comes with realizing it was only a dream before thick smoke in her waking life. Her eyes popped open only to be stung by the ashen air in her room. Emmy rolled out of bed, landing hard on her elbow on the wood floor. It was a little easier to breathe, but the air still pressed heavy on her chest. She pulled her pillow down and stripped off the flannel pillowcase. Blinded, by the smoke, she reached up to her night stand, feeling for the glass of water she habitually left there and her glasses. She found the water, miraculously cool against her hand. As she pulled it down, she heard something else clatter to the floor and slide under the bed. Shit. Her glasses. She’d have to worry about that later. Emmy poured the water over the flannel case and held the wet cloth over her nose and mouth. It helped cool the air she was breathing and filter out more of the smoke, but she needed to get outside. Crawling on the floor toward her small kitchen, Emmy was never more grateful for the “cozy” floor plan of her cottage. When she reached the backdoor, the flannel was already drying out. Her eyes watered even closed. She reached her hand out expecting to feel the sturdy oak of the closed door, but it swung at her touch. Emmy was a city girl at heart and had never really understood the local custom of leaving one’s door open at all hours. She knew that she had locked both the front and back doors before bed. She could feel the cool night air taunting her from under the metal screen door. Pushing aside everything else, Emmy stood in a burst of energy and ran crashing through the screen door and didn’t stop running until she fell where her yard met the sand. On her knees, she gasped and coughed, her lungs dragging air in even though every breath felt like broken glass. She could hear sirens whining in the distance. Emmy watched, in shock as her little haven burnt from the inside like a jack-o-lantern. Against the orange and amber glow of the flames, Emmy thought she saw the silhouette of a man moving away from the cottage, but without her glasses, all she could do was squint.